Road trip begins on a high note as Giants defeat Nationals 9-5

Photo credit: @SFGiants

By Jeremy Kahn

What a nice start to a three-city, 10 game road trip for the San Francisco Giants against a tough Washington Nationals team.

Andrew McCutchen got the offense going in the first inning, as he hit his third home run of the week that matched his season total and the Giants defeated the Nationals 9-5 at Nationals Park on Friday night.

Andrew Suarez did not go the minimum five innings, as he was pulled from the game with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning after the Nationals cut the Giants once 6-2 lead down to 6-4.

Suarez went 4.1 innings, allowing four runs on six hits, walking one and striking out five, before way to Reyes Moronta.

The Giants extended the lead to 3-0 in the top of the second inning, as Alen Hanson continues his hot hitting since coming off the disabled list, as he singled to right field that scored Pablo Sandoval. Hunter Pence then extended the lead, as he doubled in Hanson.

Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg lasted just two innings before he was forced to leave the game with inflammation in his shoulder, and will undergo an MRI on Saturday. Strasburg gave up three runs on five hits, walking no one and striking out two, as he fell to 6-6 on the season.

Gorkys Hernandez continues his hot hitting, as he hit a two-run two run home run in the top of the fourth inning that gave the Giants a 5-0 lead.

The Nationals finally got on the board in the bottom of the fourth inning, as Suarez gave up a two-run home run to Juan Soto that landed in the Giants bullpen just out of the reach of Pence, who attempted to make a home run saving catch.

Brandon Crawford remains hot, as he doubled to left field that scored McCutchen to give the Giants a 6-2 lead in the top of the fifth inning.

Wilmer Difo began the Nationals comeback in the bottom of the fifth inning, as he singled to lead off the inning against Suarez. After Pedro Severino flew out for the first out of the inning, Adrian Sanchez singled and then Trea Turner walked to load the bases for Bryce Harper, who was the tying run.

Harper singled to right field to score both Difo and Sanchez, which marked the end of the night for Suarez.

Reyes Moronta replaced Suarez, and was able to get Anthony Rendon to fly out to Hernandez in centerfield and then Mark Reynolds fouled out to Hanson at third base to end the threat. That was it for Moronta, who picked up his second win of the season.

Matt Adams got the Nationals within one run in the bottom of the sixth inning, as he singled off of former Nationals reliever Mark Melancon.

The Giants broke the game wide open in the top of the seventh inning, as Sandoval singled in Joe Panik, who doubled to right field to lead off the inning. Following the Panik double, Buster Posey singled and then after McCutchen made the first out of the inning, Crawford was hit by a pitch that loaded the bases.

Sandoval then followed Crawford to the plate, and singled to centerfield to score Panik from third base. Evan Longoria, who did not start, came off the bench to pinch hit for Hanson and hit a sacrifice fly that scored Posey and then Hunter Pence put the finishing touches on the scoring, when singled to right field to score Crawford.

NOTES: Dereck Rodriguez will make his second major league start on Saturday, as he takes on Gio Gonzalez.

Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija both threw in the bullpen prior to the game. Samardzija, who is out with right shoulder tightness will throw one more bullpen session and then throw to hitters or make a rehab start. Cueto is likely to throw two more bullpen sessions and then a batting practice before returning from inflammation in his right elbow.

UP NEXT: The Giants and Nationals meet again Saturday at 9:05 am PDT.

Rude Guests: Nats rob Giants’ momentum with rout, then rush off to the airport

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By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–From the Giants’ perspective, finally achieving a .500 record after an adversity-filled start to the season would have been a nice storyline.

But it didn’t happen, so maybe focusing on April 25–today’s date–and the still early stage of the long season will temper their momentary disappointments.

Either way, for the 25 guys trudging out the Giants’ clubhouse on Wednesday, perspective will be needed. 15-2 defeats aren’t easy to swallow.

The Nationals pounded out 18 hits, led 10-0 in the sixth, amply supporting starter Max Scherzer, who went six innings, and earned themselves a relaxed flight back to the Nation’s Capital.

“One of those games that started off rough and gradually got worse,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “We gave up crooked numbers. That’s not going to work.”

The Giants still covet a 14-14 record after Sunday, their way of standing up to a brutal stretch to start the season that ends Sunday against the Dodgers. But after getting blown out they’ll have to regain their recent form immediately if they want to grab three of four from LA.

Concerning issues cropped up before the first pitch, and multipled in the game’s initial pitches. First, Buster Posey was given a day off to rest, then hard-swinging Mac Williamson was scratched due to a sore neck, a result of his sliding catch attempt on Tuesday that sent him tumbling into the low wall bordering the left field line bullpen. Giants starter Jeff Samardzija looked good in his season debut over the weekend at Anaheim, but lugged an 0-5 record against Washington in his last five starts to the mound Wednesday. That was essentially the opposite of Scherzer, who dominated the Giants in his last two appearances, striking out a combined 21 batters.

Then the game commenced, and the Nats took a quick 3-0 lead as Samardzija gave up three hits surrounding his wild pitch with Bryce Harper at bat.

The traffic on the basepaths never subsided after that. Samardzija escaped trouble in the second and third, then got torched in the fourth, allowing three more runs. Pierce Johnson gave up a pair of runs, then Josh Osich allowed four. Throughout, the last out of an inning became slippier than a piglet in soapy, bath water. In all, four relievers threw over 100 pitches, that after Samardzija threw 86 and couldn’t finish the fourth inning. Johnson allowed as many runs as he gave up in eight, previous outings.

“You’re looking for someone to put up a zero and we had a hard time doing that,” Bochy admitted.

And the AT&T Park crowd of 35,126 squirmed, then left, figuring they could realize greater entertainment value sitting in afternoon commute traffic. The game somehow ended after three hours, 13 minutes, partly attributable to Scherzer who struck out 10, and closed doors immediately after they opened.

“You just want to go out there and put up zeros to get the offense back in and have everybody run to the bat rack. That’s what makes it fun,” said Scherzer.

Andrew McCutchen (hitting .205), Brandon Crawford (.200) and Austin Jackson (.213) combined to strike out five times against the Nationals ace. Evan Longoria (.222) was spelled at third base by Pablo Sandoval. In a seventh inning, pinch-hitting role, Longoria faced reliever Trevor Gott and struck out swinging.

All four will likely be back in the starting lineup Friday to face Los Angeles’ Hyun-Jin Ryu. But Ryu’s undefeated with an ERA under two. The Giants won’t face Clayton Kershaw this weekend, and the Dodgers haven’t announced a starter for Saturday’s first game, but trouble could arise regardless for the Giants if the dead spots in their lineup don’t respond.

Derek Holland opposes Ryu. He’s yet to defeat the Dodgers, but with just two, previous starts, it’s a limited sample.

Giants Notes: Twists and Turns Keep on Coming

Photo credit: @SFGiants

By: Ana Kieu

SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Giants defeated the Washington Nationals by close scores of 4-2 and 4-3, in that order. However, San Francisco was unable to complete a three-game sweep over Washington at AT&T Park Wednesday afternoon as they fell behind early and never came close to their opponent.

April 25, 2018
Final: 15-2 Nationals
Attendance: 35,126
Time: 3 hours, 13 minutes

Here are some Giants news and notes:
– Giants manager Bruce Bochy tweeted just minutes after the Giants’ 4-3 win over the Nats Tuesday night. Bochy and his team are 1-0 when he’s on Twitter.
– The Giants congratulated the Golden State Warriors on eliminating the San Antonio Spurs to advance to the Western Conference Semifinals. They also announced their Bay Area Unite night at AT&T Park during their home game versus the San Diego Padres on April 30 at 7:15 pm PT. You can purchase your tickets here: atmlb.com/2qYFhQA
– The Giants congratulated the nearby San Francisco Dons on their recent win.
– The Giants brought fans a double dose of No. 25 Wednesday by giving out a collectible figurine of father-son duo Barry and Bobby Bonds.
– Longtime Giants fan Marci Salvador turned 100 last week, but celebrated her birthday at AT&T Park Wednesday.
– Dylan, who’s dealing with pediatric cancer, got to meet some of his favorite Giants players on the field prior to Wednesday’s game. Sam Dyson let Dylan use his glove and played catch with the little boy.
– Mac Williamson was scratched Wednesday due to neck stiffness.
– Chris Stratton was placed on paternity leave.
– Roberto Gomez was recalled from Triple-A Sacramento.
– Jeff Samardzija made his AT&T Park debut Wednesday.

Up Next: The Giants host the rival Dodgers this weekend. Game 1 is scheduled for Friday, April 27 at 7:15 pm PT on KNTV and SNLA. Games 2 and 3 are scheduled for Saturday, April 28 at 1:05 pm PT on KNTV and SNLA and NSBA and SNLA, respectively. Game 4 is scheduled for Sunday, April 29 at 2:05 pm PT on NSBA and SNLA.

Williamson and Belt each go deep in Giants’ 4-3 win over Nationals

Photo credit: @SFGiants

By Jeremy Kahn

SAN FRANCISCO–It maybe early in the year, but the San Francisco Giants are beginning to show why they have three World Series in the past eight years.

Mac Williamson hit a towering home run to straightaway centerfield in the bottom of the sixth inning, as the Giants made it three straight victories with a 4-3 win over the Washington Nationals in front of a crowd of 37,147 at AT&T Park Tuesday night.

The Williamson home run measured at 423 feet went deep over the centerfield wall to give the Giants the second series win in a row.

There was a scary moment for Williamson in the top of the fifth inning, as he attempted to catch a Bryce Harper foul, Williamson went crashing into the padded wall near the bullpen area.

“Feeling fine, spiked my calf,” said Williamson.

Brandon Belt continued his hot hitting, as he extended his hitting streak to seven games, as he hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the third inning. It was the fifth home run for Belt in the last six games.

Joe Panik went three-for-four at the plate, as the Giants have won four out of their last five games.

Reyes Moronta pitched two innings, as he allowed just one hit and struck out two and won his first major league game.

“Reyes is doing a great job,” said Ty Blach.

Blach went five innings, allowing three runs on four hits, while walking two and striking out three, as he did not fare in the decision.

Blach was looking good until he got into trouble in the top of the fourth inning, as he walked Ryan Zimmerman, gave up a single to Moises Sierra and then Michael Taylor tied up the game with one swing of the bat. Taylor took a Blach pitch to the right-field arcade for a three-run home run that tied up the game.

It was a tough few days for Blach, as he suffered food poisoning in Anaheim, and was on IV yesterday, according to Bruce Bochy.

“Down eight or nine pounds,” said Blach.

Tanner Roark pitched six innings, allowing four runs on six hits, walked two, struck out four. Roark also threw two wild pitches, and gave up two home runs, as hid record fell to 1-2 on the season.

NOTES: Jeff Samardzija heads to the mound on Wednesday afternoon, as the Giants look for the sweep. The Nationals will send Max Scherzer to the hill, as they look to salvage the series finale.

In his last five starts against the Nationals, Samardzija is 0-5 with a 6.43 earned run average in 28 innings pitched.

On the other hand, in his last two starts versus the Giants, Scherzer has 21 strikeouts and just one walk.

UP NEXT: The Giants and Nationals conclude their three-game series Wednesday afternoon at 12:45 pm PT.

Giants have that youthful glow as Stratton, Williamson lead them past the Nationals

 

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By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–Will this be the 14th consecutive season without a 30-home run hitter for the Giants?

It’s been awhile, but for the first time in awhile, the Giants at least have some candidates, most prominently Brandon Belt, who has never hit more than 18 homers in his seven season career.  He’s hit five thus far, and looks healthy, since health has been the biggest reason he didn’t achieve the feat previously.

Evan Longoria has hit 30 home runs in a season four times, all for Tampa Bay, most recently in 2016 when he hit a career-best 36. Andrew McCutchen hit 31 in 2012 for the Pirates. Hunter Pence hit 27 in 2013, Buster Posey hit 24 in 2012. None of that quartet seems likely for a breakout, at least not one that would take them past 30.

So how about Mac Williamson? Now that’s an interesting possibility.

In Monday’s homecoming, 4-2 win over the Nationals, Williamson’s sixth inning home run increased the Giants’ one-run lead to three. Not only hit at a pivotal juncture, it was smoked, leaving the park at 112 mph and traveling 465 feet, over and past Triples Alley. After the game, it was all anyone wanted to discuss.

“I just haven’t seen many balls hit there, even in BP, and with the wind blowing,” manager Bruce Bochy said.  “That’s impressive. It shows you how strong this guy is. Big home run too, big moment there. It’s an area where few guys can hit a ball.  And I think all his teammates were pretty impressed too.”

“I hit it well. But you never know here at AT&T,” said Williamson.

Talk about pronouncing yourself ready to take on a definitive role at the major league level, here’s Williamson’s path. First promoted in 2015, Williamson and Jarrett Parker both get opportunities given their power game and capable defense to assume roles in San Francisco. But over the last three seasons, neither emerged with injuries derailing both. Parker’s no longer in the San Francisco organization, but Williamson is, after regaining his health and refining his swing in the anonymity of minor league ball.

Fast forward to spring of 2018, and Williamson turns head in spring with some prodigious feats, but he’s still demoted to Sacramento prior to Opening Day.  Left fielder Hunter Pence starts slow, and then is injured, clearing a path for Williamson, who hits .487 with six home runs in just 11 games with the AAA River Cats.

Then on Friday night in Anaheim, in his season debut, Williamson homers off Angels’ reliever Andrew Heaney, an opposite field blast that travels 434 feet and at 114 mph is the hardest hit ball to date for the Giants.

Quite simply, it’s a story that says Williamson has arrived.

Chris Stratton has been with the Giants all season and pitched well in all but his first outing.  That string continued Monday as the 27-year old allowed just four hits, two runs, and bailed out the whole team in the sixth when two Giants’ errors could have been the precursor to the Nats getting back into the game. With runners on second and third, one out, Stratton struck out Matt Adams, and got Matt Wieters to fly out to end the inning.

In that stretch, Stratton relied heavily on his improved changeup, and didn’t get caught trying rush the ball to plate in a stressful situation. Last season, Stratton beat the Nats in D.C., striking out a career-best 10, and on Monday, he doubled down on that performance, beating the Nats this time with Bryce Harper in the lineup.

“Sometimes it’s his breaking ball, but he’s got confidence in that changeup,” Bochy said of Stratton’s repertoire. “And that’s a big pitch for him. And he used it instead of trying to power his way through them. That’s why he’s a starter, and that’s why he’s on this club.  He’s got four pitches with command.”

The Giants have won three of four, and improved to 10-12 on the season. That gauntlet of an opening stretch–the first 28 ballgames of the team’s season considered the most difficult of any major league club based on last year’s won-loss records–now appears surviveable with six games remaining, concluding this Sunday against the Dodgers.

On Tuesday, they face under-the-radar Giants’ killer, Tanner Roark, who has allowed just one earned run in his last three starts against San Francisco.  Ty Blach takes the ball for the Giants at 7:15pm.

A’s 9th-inning comeback ends up one run short; Nats win series final 11-10

By Charlie O. Mallonee

MLB: Washington Nationals at Oakland Athletics
Sonny Gray did not earn his third win of the year on Sunday versus the Nationals Photo Neville E Guard USA Today Sports

“That’s American League baseball. A lead is never safe because they’re used to coming back and having big innings because the offensive clubs hit the ball out of the ballpark. We didn’t walk guys to get to that situation, they hit us,” opined Nationals manager Dusty Baker after the game.

I have the greatest of respect for Dusty Baker who I have covered as a manager since he was the skipper of the San Francisco Giants, but I have to disagree with him on his analysis of the game in Oakland on Sunday.

What the Nationals saw as they escaped with an 11-10 win in the third and final game of this interleague series match up was not American League baseball, it was Oakland Athletics’ baseball at home on Rickey Henderson Field. This 2017 A’s team loves to play at home in Oakland. At home they are tenacious, fierce and tough to beat which is why they are 16-12 in Oakland (on the road they are a different team, 8-20).

The second thing that Dusty Baker saw was a Nationals team that is now 35-20 on the season that had an 11-4 lead going into the bottom of the ninth inning against the last place team in the American League West lose its focus as they were looking ahead to a series with the Dodgers that begins in L.A. on Monday. Not to take anything away from the A’s, but that comeback should have never happened.

This was really a tale of two different games:

The Pitching Duel

Both starting pitchers were strong in this game. Which may surprise you when you look at the score.

Sonny Gray worked seven strong innings. He finished giving up three runs (all earned) on four hits. He walked three while striking out six National hitters. Gray threw 103 pitches (63 strikes). Sonny Gray wound up with a no-decision despite the fact that he pitched well enough to get a win.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Oakland Athletics
Tanner Roark recorded his sixth win of the year against the A’s on Sunday Photo Neville E Guard USA Today Sports

Washington starter Tanner Roark looked like he might wind up with a “CG” (complete game) with the way he was pitching. Roark was strong through seven innings but ran into trouble in the eighth. He finished going 7.2 innings giving up 4 runs (all earned) on five hits. He walked just one and struck out four A’s. Roark also pitched well enough to win but his bullpen really let him down, but he still wound up with his sixth win of the season.

Sonny Gray left the game with score tied 3-3 after seven complete innings.

Tanner Roark exited the game with two out in the bottom of the eighth with a 6-4 lead.

The relief pitching was a little scary

The A’s brought in Ryan Madson for the top of the eighth inning. Madson gave up three runs on just two hits including a three-run home run to Ryan Zimmerman (16). After the Zimmerman round-tripper, Madson induced Daniel Murphy to ground out. He was then replaced by Frankie Montas who caused Anthony Rendon to pop out to end the inning. Madson would take the loss in the game.

The 100+ mph throwing Montas came back for the ninth inning and got shelled by the Nats. Montas gave up five runs (all earned) on five hits including back-to-back home runs to Matt Wieters and Michael Taylor. Josh Smith had to be brought in to close out the ninth for Montas.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Oakland Athletics
Shawn Kelley picked up his fourth save of 2017 on Sunday in the win over the A’s Photo Neville E Guard USA Today Sports

Koda Glover who was able to get Tanner Roark out of a jam in the bottom of the eighth inning returned in the bottom of the ninth. Glover gave up five runs (all earned) on four hits. Shawn Kelley was brought to replace Glover and he gave up a grand slam home run to Matt Joyce while also earning his fourth save of the season.

Yes, it was a weird game.

Stars on offense

Both teams had stars on offense. The A’s scored 10 runs on 10 hits while leaving two runners on base. The Nationals scored 11 runs on 11 hits leaving four runners on base. There were a total of five home runs hit in the game. There were also three doubles and one triple hit in the contest.

The Nationals were led on offense by designated hitter Ryan Zimmerman who went 3-for-5 on Sunday with three RBI and scoring two runs to go with his 16th home run of the season.

Washington shortstop Trea Turner had a 2-for-4 day with two runs scored and two RBI. Turner hit his third triple of the year off Sonny Gray.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Oakland Athletics
Nationals catcher Matt Wieters hit a home run on Sunday Photo Neville E Guard USA Today Sports

Catcher Matt Wieters went 2-for-3 scoring two runs and posting two RBI. Wieters hit his fifth homer of the year off Montas in the ninth inning.

The Nats number nine hitter – Michael Taylor – had a day every number nine batter would like to have any day. Taylor recorded a 2-for-4 day with two runs scored and one RBI. Taylor also hit his sixth home run of the season off Montas in the ninth inning of the game.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Oakland Athletics
Khris Davis hit his 17th home run of the season on Sunday Photo Neville E Guard USA Today Sports

The Athletics Khris Davis had a day he would have liked to have had on Saturday – his bobblehead day. Davis went 3-for-4 scoring three runs with two RBI that included his 17th home run of the year and his sixth double.

Outfielder Matt Joyce posted four RBI and scored two runs while going 2-for-4 against the Nationals on Sunday. Joyce hit his seventh home run of the season in the A’s six-run ninth inning.

Up next

The A’s have three more games at home this week with the Toronto Blue Jays. The series begins on Monday night. The Blue Jays will send J.A. Happ to the hill in the first game of the series. He is 0-3 on the year with 4.50 ERA. The A’s will counter with lefty Sean Manaea who is 4-3 with a 3.91 ERA. The first pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

A’s trade lefty reliever Rzepczynski to Nationals for 2B prospect Max Schrock

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Photo: MiLB.com

by Charlie O. Mallonee

The Oakland Athletics made a trade today with the Washington Nationals that makes it abundantly clear they are in a youth movement as the end of the season approaches.

The A’s sent left-handed relief pitcher Marc Rzepczynski and cash to the Nationals for minor league infielder Max Schrock.

Rzepczynski was acquired over the winter from the San Diego Padres as part of the Drew Pomeranz trade. He was 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in 56 relief appearances for Oakland this season. Rzepczynski will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

Rzepczynski broke into the major leagues in 2009 with Toronto. He has also pitched for St. Louis, Cleveland and San Diego.

The A’s received second baseman Max Schrock from the Nationals. Schrock was selected by Washington in the 13th round of the 2015 draft out of the University of South Carolina.

The 21-year old Schrock is 5-foot-8, 180 pounds. He bats left and throws right. Schrock is known as being a pure hitter. He is not a power hitter but he makes the most of every opportunity he has with the bat. Schrock is a good fielder and average runner.

Schrock was promoted from Class-A to High Class-A Potomac of the Carolina League at mid-season. In 54 games with Potomac, he hit .341 with a .373 on base percentage. Schrock collected 79 hits in 232 at bats including 11 doubles, five home runs and 29 RBI. Schrock also was trying to make a name for himself as a base-stealer at Potomac by going 7-for-9 in the stolen base category.

Schrock can be considered to be on the fast track of player development as he has gone from short-season A ball to High Class-A in less than a season. Scouts are projecting that Schrock could be ready for major league service as early as the 2018 season.

The A’s have their number 14 prospect – 2B Joey Wendle – at Nashville and Franklin Barreto – Oakland’s number one ranked minor leaguer – is playing second base for Double-A Midland. So, where does Schrock wind up playing? For now, he will probably wind up in a Stockton Ports uniform for the rest of the season unless there are some major late season roster moves in the farm system.

With Pinder, Wendle, and Barreto all at second base, how does Schrock fit into the A’s players development plans? Simply put – he can hit. In baseball if you can hit, a team will find a position for you to play. In the case of Schrock, do not be surprised to see him being worked out at a corner outfield spot – especially in left field where arm strength is not as crucial.

For now, the A’s minor league spotlight is on Max Schrock.

The A’s send Marc Rzepczynski to the Nats

by Jerry Feitelberg

Oakland-The A’s traded lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski to the Washington National Thursday. The A’s will receive a prospect, Max Schrock, in return. Schrock is 21 years old. Rzepcyzinski had an ERA of 3.00 in 56 appearances. The 30-year old lefty had a ground ball percentage of 70.5% which was second-best in the Majors this year.